WHEN they alighted in front of the arbiter's house, the chief of the atriu_nswered them that of slaves sent to the gates none had returned yet. Th_triensis had given orders to take food to them, and a new command, that unde_enalty of rods they were to watch carefully all who left the city.
"Thou seest," said Petronius, "that they are in Rome, beyond doubt, and i_hat case we shall find them. But command thy people also to watch at th_ates, — those, namely, who were sent for Lygia, as they will recognize he_asily."
"I have given orders to send them to rural prisons," said Vinicius, "but _ill recall the orders at once, and let them go to the gates."
And writing a few words on a wax-covered tablet, he handed it to Petronius, who gave directions to send it at once to the house of Vinicius. Then the_assed into the interior portico, and, sitting on a marble bench, began t_alk. The golden-haired Eunice and has pushed bronze footstools under thei_eet, and poured wine for them into goblets, out of wonderful narrow-necke_itchers from Volaterr~ and Qecina.
"Hast thou among thy people any one who knows that giant Lygian?" aske_etronius.
"Atacinus and Gulo knew him; but Atacinus fell yesterday at the litter, an_ulo I killed."
"I am sorry for him," said Petronius. "He carried not only thee, but me, i_is arms."
"I intended to free him," answered Vinicius; "but do not mention him. Let u_peak of Lygia. Rome is a sea—"
"A sea is just the place where men fish for pearls. Of course we shall no_ind her to-day, or to-morrow, but we shall find her surely. Thou hast accuse_e just now of giving thee this method; but the method was good in itself, an_ecame bad only when turned to bad. Thou hast heard from Aulus himself, tha_e intends to go to Sicily with his whole family. In that case the girl woul_e far from thee."
"I should follow them," said Vinicius, "and in every case she would be out o_anger; but now, if that child dies, Poppae will believe, and will persuad_aesar, that she died because of Lygia."
"True; that alarmed me, too. But that little doll may recover. Should she die, we shall find some way of escape."
Here Petronius meditated a while and added, — "Poppae, it is said, follows th_eligion of the Jews, and believes in evil spirits. Caesar is superstitious.
If we spread the report that evil spirits carried off Lygia, the news wil_ind belief, especially as neither Caesar nor Aulus Plautius intercepted her; her escape was really mysterious. The Lygian could not have effected it alone; he must have had help. And where could a slave find so many people in th_ourse of one day?"
"Slaves help one another in Rome."
"Some person pays for that with blood at times. True, they support on_nother, but not some against others. In this case it was known tha_esponsibility and punishment would fall on thy people. If thou give th_eople the idea of evil spirits, they will say at once that they saw such wit_heir own eyes, because that will justify them in thy sight. Ask one of them, as a test, if he did not see spirits carrying off Lygia through the air, h_ill swear at once by the Aegis of Zeus that he saw them."
Vinicius, who was superstitious also, looked at Petronius with sudden an_reat fear.
"If Ursus could not have men to help him, and was not able to take her alone, who could take her?"
Petronius began to laugh.
"See," said he, "they will believe, since thou art half a believer thyself.
Such is our society, which ridicules the gods. They, too, will believe, an_hey will not look for her. Meanwhile we shall put her away somewhere far of_rom the city, in some villa of mine or thine."
"But who could help her?"
"Her co-religionists," answered Petronius.
"Who are they? What deity does she worship? I ought to know that better tha_hou."
"Nearly every woman in Rome honors a different one. It is almost beyond doub_hat Pomponia reared her in the religion of that deity which she hersel_orships; what one she worships 1 know not. One thing is certain, that n_erson has seen her make an offering to our gods in any temple. They hav_ccused her even of being a Christian; but that is not possible; a domesti_ribunal cleared her of the charge. They say that Christians not only worshi_n ass's head, but are enemies of the human race, and permit the foules_rimes. Pomponia cannot be a Christian, as her virtue is known, and an enem_f the human race could not treat slaves as she does."
"In no house are they treated as at Aulus's," interrupted Vinicius.
"Ah! Pomponia mentioned to me sonie god, who must be one powerful an_erciful. Where she has put away all the others is her affair; it is enoug_hat that Logos of hers cannot be very mighty, or rather he must be a ver_eak god, since he has had only two adherents, — Pomponia and Lygia, — an_rsus in addition. It must be that there are more of those adherents, and tha_hey assisted Lygia."
"That faith commands forgiveness," said Vinicius. "At Acte's I met Pomponia, who said to me: 'May God forgive thee the evil which thou hast done to us an_o Lygia.'"
"Evidently their God is some curator who is very mild. Ha! let him forgiv_hee, and in sign of forgiveness return thee the maiden."
"I would offer him a hecatomb to-morrow! I have no wish for food, or the bath, or sleep. I will take a dark lantern and wander through the city. Perhaps _hall find her in disguise. I am sick."
Petronius looked at him with commiseration. In fact, there was blue under hi_yes, his pupils were gleaming with fever, his unshaven beard indicated a dar_trip on his firmly outlined jaws, his hair was in disorder, and he wa~ reall_ike a sick man. Iras and the golden-haired Eunice looked at him also wit_ympathy; but he seemed not to see them, and he and Petronius took no notic_hatever of the slave women, just as they would not have noticed dogs movin_round them.
"Fever is tormenting thee," said Petronius.
"Then listen to me. I know not what the doctor has prescribed to thee, but _now how I should act in thy place. Till this lost one is found I should see_n another that which for the moment has gone from me with her. I saw splendi_orms at thy villa. Do not contradict me. I know what love is; and I know tha_hen one is desired another cannot take her place. But in a beautiful slave i_s possible to find even momentary distraction."
"I do not need it," said Vinicius.
But Petronius, who had for him a real weakness, and who wished to soften hi_ain, began to meditate how he might do so.
"Perhaps thine have not for thee the charm of novelty," said he, after a while (and here he began to look in turn at Iras and Eunice, and finally he place_is palm on the hip of the golden-haired Eunice). "Look at this grace! fo_hom some days since Fonteius Capiton the younger offered three wonderful boy_rom Clazomene. A more beautiful figure than hers even Skopas himself has no_hiselled. I myself cannot tell why I have remained indifferent to her thu_ar, since thoughts of Chrysothemis have not restrained me. Well, I give he_o thee; take her for thyself!"
When the golden-haired Eunice heard this, she grew pale in one moment, and, looking with frightened eyes on Vinicius, seemed to wait for his answe_ithout breath in her breast.
But he sprang up suddenly, and, pressing his temples with his hands, sai_uickly, like a man who is tortured by disease, and will not hear anything, —
"No, no! I care not for her! I care not for others! I thank thee, but I do no_ant her. I will seek that one through the city. Give command to bring me _allic cloak with a hood. I will go beyond the Tiber — if I could see eve_rsus."
And he hurried away. Petronius, seeing that he could not remain in one place, did not try to detain him. Taking, however, his refusal as a temporary dislik_or all women save Lygia, and not wishing his own magnanimity to go fo_aught, he said, turning to the slave, — "Eunice, thou wilt bathe and anoin_hyself, then dress: after that thou wilt go to the house of Vinicius."
But she dropped before him on her knees, and with joined palms implored hi_ot to remove her from the house. She would not go to Vinicius, she said. Sh_ould rather carry fuel to the hypocaustum in his house than be chief servan_n that of Vinicius. She would not, she could not go; and she begged him t_ave pity on her. Let him give command to flog her daily, only not send he_way.
And trembling like a leaf with fear and excitement, she stretched her hands t_im, while he listened with amazement. A slave who ventured to beg relief fro_he fulfilment of a command, who said "I will not and I cannot," was somethin_o unheard-of in Rome that Petronius could not believe his own ears at first.
Finally he frowned. He was too refined to be cruel. His slaves, especially i_he department of pleasure, were freer than others, on condition of performin_heir service in an exemplary manner, and honoring the will of their master, like that of a god. In case they failed in these two respects, he was able no_o spare punishment, to which, according to general custom, they were subject.
Since, besides this, he could not endure opposition, nor anything whic_uffled his calmness, he looked for a while at the kneeling girl, and the_aid, — "Call Tiresias, and return with him."
Eunice rose, trembling, with tears in her eyes, and went out; after a time sh_eturned with the chief of the atrium, Tiresias, a Cretan.
"Thou wilt take Eunice," said Petronius, "and give her five-and-twenty lashes, in such fashion, however, as not to harm her skin."
When he had said this, he passed into the library, and, sitting down at _able of rose-colored marble, began to work on his "Feast of Trimaichion." Bu_he flight of Lygia and the illness of the infant Augusta had disturbed hi_ind so much that he could not work long. That illness, above all, wa_mportant. It occurred to Petronius that were Caesar to believe that Lygia ha_ast spells on the infant, the responsibility might fall on him also, for th_irl had been brought at his request to the palace. But he could reckon o_his, that at the first interview with Caesar he would be able in some way t_how the utter absurdity of such an idea; he counted a little, too, on _ertain weakness which Poppaea had for him, — a weakness hidden carefully, i_s true, but not so carefully that he could not divine it. After a while h_hrugged his shoulders at these fears, and decided to go to the trielinium t_trengthen himself, and then order the litter to bear him once more to th_alace, after that to the Campus Martins, and then to Chrysothemis.
But on the way to the trielinium at the entrance to the corridor assigned t_ervants, he saw unexpectedly the slender form of Eunice standing, among othe_laves, at the wall; and forgetting that he had given Tiresias no order beyon_logging her, he wrinkled his brow again, and looked around for the atriensis.
Not seeing him among the servants, he turned to Eunice.
"Hast thou received the lashes?"
She cast herself at his feet a second time, pressed the border of his toga t_er lips, and said, — "Oh, yes, lord, I have received them! Oh, yes, lord!" I_er voice were heard, as it were, joy and gratitude. It was clear that sh_ooked on the lashes as a substitute for her removal from the house, and tha_ow she might stay there. Petronius, who understood this, wondered at th_assionate resistance of the girl; but he was too deeply versed in huma_ature not to know that love alone could call forth such resistance.
"Dost thou love some one in this house?" asked he.
She raised her blue, tearful eyes to him, and answered, in a voice so low tha_t was hardly possible to hear her, — "Yes, lord."
And with those eyes, with that golden hair thrown back, with fear and hope i_er face, she was so beautiful, she looked at him so entreatingly, tha_etronius, who, as a philosopher, had proclaimed the might of love, and who, as a man of aesthetic nature, had given homage to all beauty, felt for her _ertain species of compassion.
"Whom of those dost thou love?" inquired he, indicating the servants with hi_ead.
There was no answer to that question. Eunice inclined her head to his feet an_emained motionless.
Petronius looked at the slaves, among whom were beautiful and stately youths.
He could read nothing on any face; on the contrary, all had certain strang_miles. He looked then for a while on Eunice lying at his feet, and went i_ilence to the trielinium.
After he had eaten, he gave command to bear him to the palace, and then t_hrysothemis, with whom he remained till late at night. But when he returned, he gave command to call Tiresias.
"Did Eunice receive the flogging?" inquired he.
"She did, lord. Thou didst not let the skin be cut, however."
"Did I give no other command touching her?"
"No, lord," answered the atriensis with alarm.
"That is well. Whom of the slaves does she love?"
"No one, lord."
"What dost thou know of her?"
Tiresias began to speak in a somewhat uncertain voice:
"At night Eunice never leaves the cuhiculum in which she lives with ol_crisiona and Ifida; after thou art dressed she never goes to the bath-rooms.
Other slaves ridicule her, and call her Diana."
"Enough," said Petronius. "My relative, Vinicius, to whom I offered her to- day, did not accept her; hence she may stay in the house. Thou art free t_o."
"Is it permitted me to speak more of Eunice, lord?"
"I have commanded thee to say all thou knowest."
"The whole familia are speaking of the flight of the maiden who was to dwel_n the house of the noble Vinicius. After thy departure, Eunice came to me an_aid that she knew a man who could find her."
"Ah! What kind of man is he?"
"I know not, lord; but I thought that I ought to inform thee of this matter."
"That is well. Let that man wait to-morrow in my house for the arrival of th_ribune, whom thou wilt request in my name to meet me here."
The atriensis bowed and went out. But Petronius began to think of Eunice. A_irst it seemed clear to him that the young slave wished Vinicius to fin_ygia for this reason only, that she would not be forced from his house.
Afterward, however, it occurred to him that the man whom Eunice was pushin_orward might be her lover, and all at once that thought seemed to hi_isagreeable. There was, it is true, a simple way of learning the truth, fo_t was enough to summon Eunice; but the hour was late, Petronius felt tire_fter his long visit with Chrysothemis, and was in a hurry to sleep. But o_he way to the cubiculum he remembered — it is unknown why — that he ha_oticed wrinkles, that day, in the corners of Chrysothemis's eyes. He thought, also, that her beauty was more celebrated in Rome than it deserved; and tha_onteius Capiton, who had offered him three boys from Clazomenc for Eunice, wanted to buy her too cheaply.